Packaging and Meaningless Multipliers

Woman and cleaning products

With such a range of cleaning products, it’s no wonder that lucky gal is delighted!

I have previously expressed my amusement at packaging labelling (oh yes, it’s all party party party around here!). Recently I’ve been noticing something new – an increase in the use of meaningless multipliers. Let me explain…

First, take my make-up remover wipes. Actually don’t take them, I need them, just look at them:

Makeup wipes I don’t know if you can read the small black print on there, but it says “2 doses of cleansing milk”. To the best of my knowledge, a dose is not a specific amount in itself, and nowhere on the packaging do they tell us how how much one dose of cleansing milk is, therefore stating that there are two doses is completely meaningless.

And look at these crisps:

Crisps Twice flavoured indeed (and yes Mike, flavoured has a “u” in it).  It seems to me it would be more efficient to just put enough flavour on in the first place rather than having to do it twice.

UPDATE - FOLLOWING A COMMENT MADE BY ONE OF MY FOLLOWERS BELOW, I CONTACTED KP SNACKS, THE MAKERS OF MCCOYS ULTIMATE CRISPS TO FIND OUT WHAT IS ACTUALLY MEANT BY “TWICE FLAVOURED” AND THEY REPLIED “Our Ultimate McCoy’s are flavoured before being fried and then again after frying to give that ‘extra’ flavour to them”. SO I THINK WE CAN GIVE THEM THAT ONE, I CAN SEE HOW THAT MIGHT HAVE A GENUINE PURPOSE. ALSO, THEY REPLIED WITHIN 24 HOURS AND ACTUALLY ANSWERED THE QUESTION WHICH CAN’T BE SAID FOR ALL CUSTOMER SERVICE DEPARTMENTS, SO I SEND EXTRA POINTS TO KP SNACKS FOR THEIR EXTRA FLAVOUR!

My laundry liquid says “3 x Cleaning System” :

Laundry liquid

Does anyone have any idea what “3 x Cleaning System” means? I certainly don’t, and there is no explanation on the back either about it. Just the usual instructions, warnings, and reassurance that the queen is a fan of products made by this company – I always insist that my household products have that royal stamp of approval, if it’s not good enough for the queen then it’s not good enough for me right? :

Back of laundry liquid  Queen approval

My hair conditioner boasts “Triple resist x 3″ So does that mean 9 times resist then? And what is it resisting? Close scrutiny I expect.

Conditioner

In fairness to this conditioner, it does attempt to explain what triple resist means with a little list of three things further down:

1. Reinforces
2. Nourishes from root
3. Feels stronger

I’m not convinced that those three things actually work as an explanation for “Triple resist x 3″ though - Number 3, “Feels stronger”, surely that’s an outcome of numbers 1 and 2 working well? But I guess we’re not meant to over-think any of these meaningless multipliers, we’re just meant to believe that we’re getting a few times more of something than we would usually expect to get.

Have you noticed any meaningless multipliers cropping up on your packaging?

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Smiling lady with cleaning products photo credit: missmac via photopin cc

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81 responses to “Packaging and Meaningless Multipliers

  1. I love that the Queen endorses the best of products!

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  2. I love this post and on the whole I totally agree, with the exception of the twice flavoured crisps (or ‘chips’ as we South Africans call them) they DO have two flavours (both artificially created in a lab I feel sure) the first flavour is Chargrilled Steak and then the second flavour is Peri Peri (which is Swahili for ‘Hot, Hot’).

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    • Hmmm, I know what you’re saying, but I’m not sure if that’s what they mean – many crisps/chips are a combination of two flavours, but they don’t generally describe it as “twice flavoured”, but maybe you’re right! I feel the urge to contact McCoys now to find out if that’s what they meant, I shall report back if I do!

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    • Ok, I did contact them to find out, and they responded “Our Ultimate McCoy’s are flavoured before being fried and then again after frying to give that ‘extra’ flavour to them”, so it seems it is a double dose of flavouring which maybe does make a difference! I shall update my post with this info…

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  3. I love to read all the blurb on packages… and to think some advertising firm has been paid big bucks to come up with big Bull s..t… the thing that does get me however is that are we actually meant to believe it??? Do they think we are idiots?? It makes me think of the adverts that end with “you see size does matter” when they have actually no idea about what they are talking about… I love your post pointing out some of this idiocy ….

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    • I guess generally people don’t think about it too much, the messages on the packages attract us for whatever reason, I mean, I bought this stuff that I’m laughing at! So obviously the packaging must have attracted me and convinced me that it was worth buying, I think often when we’re shopping, we’re perhaps in a rush, so we grab whatever has an instant appeal. It’s only later I look at it in more depth and think “Hang on a minute…”

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  4. Vanessa I have never noticed this marketing but now will be on the hunt. Obviously I am not the target market or I am completely oblivious. The Queen approves certain products? Is there a product lab at Buckingham Palace? :) Thanks for the Monday morning chuckle.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Royal Family approval? Ha ha. From now on, I will never buy any products that doesn’t carry the royal seal.
    Thanks to you, Vanessa, I shall be on the look-out. I’m afraid I haven’t been reading labels. My bad. These are ridiculous and entertaining marketing gimmicks. Ha ha.

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  6. Now I am going to be on the lookout for these! :-) Hair and makeup products have to be the worst offenders, I think, but we shall see!

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  7. I don’t know that I ever pay much attention to packaging – I just buy what I’m used to. But I think it’s brilliant that you denizens of the UK have a Queen to endorse your products! We deprived Americans don’t even get a Presidential endorsement – all we have is the Better Business Bureau, Good Housekeeping, and Consumer’s Union (which doesn’t even endorse products – they just write about them in their magazine).. How very inelegant! And I should note that our products are all flavorful and colorful, never flavourful and colourful. Hee hee

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  8. I love a person who pays attention to detail. I’m embarrassed to say I’ve never actually paid attention to this detail before. But now that you’ve brought it to my attention, I will be a much better product discerner (which I doubt is a word, but I bet with your eye for detail, you already noticed that…).

    Fun post as always, Vanessa!

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    • I wouldn’t say I’m necessarily very attentive to detail like this in general, but if I spot one thing that seems strange or funny, then I deliberately start looking out for other examples, often with a “This will make a good blog post if I can find more examples!” head on :)

      Thanks Carrie.

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  9. Now that trans-fat isn’t good for you, I find it amusing that all the products that never had trans-fat in the first place are emblazoned with “0% Trans-Fat” in huge type across the box or bag. They’ll have to repackage when they subsequently discover that trans-fat reduces cholesterol or some such thing. How do you reduce fat in a product? I see that all the time in some percentage or another. “50% Reduced Fat.” I know they what they can say on the box is strictly enforced by the Feds, so I can only assume that the crackers are 50% less flavorful (sorry, couldn’t put a “u” in there.) than the old version.

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    • Yes, and I’ve even seen bottled water which says “Fat free” on it. Seriously?! Hey don’t worry about the “u”. I’ll just include a few here to make up for it – uuuuuuuuuuuuuuu there, that should do it :)

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  10. Really, Vanessa, it’s easy to understand the 3x cleaner. It means that it will clean your wall any time some kid writes 3 x’s on it.

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  11. Wow, I thought the extra “U” thing was impossibly British — until I learned that the Queen knights laundry detergent. You guys are wonderful!

    Seriously, why the hell did we ever separate from you people? America could have been another quirky, pleasant, peaceful Canada with a milder climate. *sigh*

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  12. Yeah, just what is it “resisting”? Too funny. And what is “Arginine”? I always thought that was when my husband and I argue over how much money I spend on useless hair products.

    And your post appeared in my reader today no less than 3 times (I’m serious!) So I guess there is a wordpress glitch? Or your blog is three times resistant too?

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  13. Oh…I want the twice flavoured chips with peri peri. I haven’t had that in ages!

    Queen endorsing detergents? WOW!

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  14. I’m probably the worlds most unobservant shopper because I never notice this stuff. But I’ll be on the lookout now. Especially for that Queen’s stamp! (I suspect in Australia we get all the cast offs…) :)

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  15. This blog is sponsored by the Wizard of Oz, and endorsed by Buckingham Palace …

    Liked by 1 person

  16. Oh those meaningless words for marketing … but there are also the marketing words dealing with our ignorance. We were shopping for tiles (for a back-splash) … the sales person mentioned the importance of the right cleaner so it does damage the stone … mentioned a “low pH cleaner” …. sounds impressive except to those who have an understanding of the pH scale.

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  17. A royal seal from the queen! Wow. It’s a good thing we don’t have a presidential seal on things. That would make it a decisive product that some people would then refuse to buy. It’s a good thing you Brits love your queen. She’s everyone’s old grandma. What’s not to love, right?

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    • A lot of Brits don’t like the queen actually, well not necessarily her personally, but the idea of having a monarchy because they feel it’s a big waste of taxpayers money. I quite like having a monarchy though, I like the history and tradition, and like when there’s a royal wedding of whatever, there’s a feel good spirit in the country, and I think the younger ones like Will and Kate are good ambassadors for the country. Even if they cost a lot of money, they also bring in a lot of tourist money. I read somewhere (not sure if it’s exact) that they cost each UK tax payer the equivalent of less than $1 a year, and I can live with that :) There are other reasons why a lot of people are anti-monarchy too, but I can’t help it, I like them!

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  18. I am proud to say that I have a multiplier-free household. I have a sign placed on my front door, saying “No Loitering No Soliciting- Multipliers, That Means YOU!!”

    Curiously, though, there is a plethora of products marked “All Natural.” Now, just what the definition of “natural” is remains to be seen—it’s being worked out by the legal staff as I write.

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    • That’s where I’ve gone wrong then, I don’t have one of those signs! I’m literally inviting the multipliers in! I can’t really complain then, I only have myself to blame.

      Ah yes, the “natural” issue is an interesting one. The thing is, everything originated from a natural source, even things created in labs are made form things that came from the earth in some way, they’re not magicked out of thin air, and therefore it’s a gradient thing between what is absolutely natural and what his highly processed, and so it’s understandable that different people have different ideas about where the line is marked.

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  19. I have such fun reading your fun posts. Random “walk around my house and make funny comments about my household products” is brilliant. That there was truly a multiplying theme? The best. Your laundry detergent is cute. And I’m impressed with your snack chip company.
    Love to you,
    Shalagh

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  20. I remember an ad for “Double Mint” chewing gum: double the flavor, double the fun. I wonder if you snapped the stick of gum in half if you’d only have a little fun…

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  21. Vanessa, my Ariel washing powder says on the top of the box ‘NEW COMPACT Dose Less’… which either doesn’t really make sense, or if read as ‘does less’ does make sense but is hardly a great sales pitch. They don’t give you a smaller measuring cup to use, that’s for sure…

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    • The wording they use is so strange isn’t it! Maybe they’re deliberately grammatically incorrect so that they can claim they meant something different if they get called on something! Probably a good tactic.

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  22. What struck me is that multiple products had that “3x” kind of modifier going on. Is there something Xtra special about tripling something? Maybe those chips (er, crisps) should be thrice flavo(u)red!

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    • I was feeling a bit guilty about taking up such a big chunk of your reduced blog reading time when I saw the emails come in about your comments, first on the roasted pepper post, then the pasta post, then this one! Yes, I think tripling something is popular on packaging, unless I’m just subconsciously drawn to buying products that have that on because 3 is kind of my lucky number (not that I actually believe in lucky numbers, but, you know!).

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      • I thought of you and this post when I was rinsing out my chlorine-free bleach bottle for the recycling bin. According to the label, it’s gluten-free. How nice to know—if I ever intended to drink the stuff! :)

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  23. I see these multipliers on things I can’t figure out how they could possibly quantify. (figure out – see what I did there?)
    Ahem – like hair colouring ads. How can they say something is 3 shades lighter?
    Wrinkle cream can act 5 times faster. When exactly does a wrinkle disappear? Is it as sudden is a power outage?

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    • Ha, yes, like one shade is a set amount that everyone understands! Or that everyone understands how fast wrinkle cream is meant to act so that we can appreciate what 5 times faster mean! It’s all rubbish isn’t it! And yet I seem to still buy the products – not the wrinkle cream you understand, OBVIOUSLY I don’t need that ;)

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      • Advertising is such a dodgy industry. The amount of BS-ing that is done is beyond belief. I’m always reminded of the incident that prompted my first ever post three years ago: “A Bottle of With Iron!” – http://wp.me/p110vT-e. Yes, I know that is grammatically incorrect but it’ll make sense if you read it.

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  24. After taking marketing classes in college (long long ago) I ceased believing any material written on products. Seriously. For instance, in the laundry detergent bottles in the US, where they say “3X” supposedly that means you need only use a 3rd of the cap, instead of the entire cap-load?, to get the same amount of detergent strength. But that’s totally incorrect (I’ve discovered through experimentation). So for years, my choice is to not read anything a bottle/package/jar has to say, particularly if it’s a ‘multiplier.”. :-)

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    • Sorry for the delayed response to this comment! I generally get to them all eventually :) It’s crazy really that they can get away with writing so much rubbish on packaging – even though there are laws now to supposedly stop lies being printed on goods, they get round that by writing things that don’t actually mean anything but just sound impressive!

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  25. So true! Advertising can be so bogus!
    You must live in England where, I noticed, they use extra words on all printed material.
    Thanks for bringing this to the party! I already see a few new faces. Have fun clicking around and mingling with the guests!

    Liked by 1 person

  26. Those are some great ones. Can’t think of any off the top of my head, but you can be sure that I’ll be looking for them now!

    Susie sent me.

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  27. Susie sent me, and I’m so glad she did! Laughed out loud at a couple of these. And I feel quite deprived that we here in the States can’t benefit from the Queen’s endorsement to tell us what the good stuff is.

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  28. I have NOT read your blog post. Not yet. I’m a packaging designer and had to just look at the pictures first! You were the early bird at Susie’s party (she was still setting up) so I had to come over and meet you.
    Since packaging and labels use lots of ampersands, you might enjoy my monthly series at amperart.com, featuring “the ampersand as fun & fabulous art.” Search “ad slogans” if you want to see that part of the series.
    Now I’ll read your story, before I head back to the party.
    (PS One of my absolute favorite clients is in the UK — treats me with such class and respect.)

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  29. Ok, I was thoroughly entertained and you deserve the 10X Blogger Award. BTW, I’m one of those who reads every word on a cereal box.

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  30. Dropping by from Susie’s party. As someone who works in advertising this gave me a laugh. It’s all about packaging and wordage mumbo jumbo, as the masses wil believe anything!

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  31. Stopped by Susie’s party a little late, but better late than never, right? It’s been a while since I’ve paid much attention to product description, but you reminded my why it can be so entertaining. My consumer ed class warned us about meaningless marketing ploys. I need to start looking again. :-)

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